Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's Your Sign?

Author Marc Prensky cares deeply about finding quick, simple ways to improve education.  In his recent article, Simple Changes in Current Practices May Save Our Schools, he lists several changes in classrooms that would be simple solutions effecting immediate change.  The first, relating to student passions, is something that those practicing service-learning methodology do well and do often----not just on the first day of school.  Prensky notes that "once teachers know their students’ passions, they can group them by their interests, give them differentiated assignments, and address them with different, more relevant approaches."

Get to know your students!  The first step in implementing quality service-learning projects is to investigate the community---and "community" begins in the classroom.  Use interest inventories and talent surveys to determine your students' passions.  Allow students to gravitate toward aspects of a project that spark their interest and make them want to participate.  Doing so will send the important message that they have something of value to contribute to the classroom community and the world at large.

What the World Needs Now

“Don’t ask what the world needs.” This quote from Howard Thurman might seemingly contradict what I know about service learning. However, it continues, “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  Students involved in service learning are given a unique opportunity to find and define what makes them come alive. 

I've seen students 'wake up' to their own abilities right in the middle of a meaningful service project.  For example, one young man----a class clown whose often crude mouth had no 'off' button----learned that the little kids he was tutoring were entertained and interested in everything he had to say.  His captive audience (the young students he was mentoring and tutoring during a service-learning project) gave him the attention he so desired and led him to the realization that he had something positive to offer.  He began searching for jobs allowing him to work with young children and has put 'teaching' at the top of his possible career choices list.  Had our reading class only involved worksheets or textbooks, he may never have had the opportunity to make this discovery.

What does the world need?  Opportunities for students to find out what makes them come alive!